Confused football fans driving by Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday must have thought Boise State or Brigham Young made a surprise February visit.
Neither was here; it only seemed that way with the crowded parking lots and nearly full stands.
The U.S. sevens rugby team noticed, and after failing to win its first three matches, the Americans finally were able to please the crowd of 30,112 with a 21-5 victory over France in the Bowl division quarterfinals of the USA Sevens tournament to end a nine-match losing streak.
Last year's tournament, which was two days instead of three, drew a total of about 38,000 fans.
"I used to think Wellington (New Zealand) and Hong Kong were my favorite," U.S. player Mike Palefau said. "Vegas by far is the best tournament I've ever played in. It's awesome to see the crowd support.
"Thirty thousand cheering for you rather than a few hundred makes a big difference."
Defending USA Sevens champion South Africa faces New Zealand in a Cup, or main draw, semifinal at 11:32 a.m. today, and Samoa plays Fiji at 11:54. The championship is at 2:28 p.m.
The U.S. Eagles began the day with a 14-12 loss to Argentina, dropping them out of the Cup draw and into the secondary Bowl division.
Their victory over France put them into the Bowl semifinals against Australia at 10:04 a.m. today. Australia routed Brazil 50-0, further proof that the latter country's best athletes favor the beautiful game over the rugged one.
The U.S. had hopes, though perhaps slim, of making the Cup draw, but any chance was wiped out with the loss to Argentina in the final match of pool play.
Argentina quickly took a 14-0 lead before the U.S. rallied to within two points just before halftime.
Each side failed to cross the goal in the second half. The match effectively ended with the U.S. holding possession, but being penalized for not allowing each side to get a fair shot at the ball.
"It was a horrible call by the referee at the end," U.S. coach Al Caravelli said. "That killed us. And there was another bad call at the beginning of the game. That one he messed up in the beginning of the game was an Argentinian try, and this one stopped our momentum.
"What we said was, 'Look guys, unfortunately, the refs aren't having good games this weekend, either, so let's try and take it away from them. Let's take control of the game completely and do it ourselves.' "
That's what the Eagles did against France, overcoming an early 5-0 deficit with tries by Zach Test, Folau Niua and Peter Tiberio to overwhelm the French.
"It was exactly what we needed after our rough first three games," Tiberio said.
It was a much-needed win for the Americans, who, while improving upon last weekend's no-show in New Zealand, needed to produce something tangible for the effort. The Eagles went 0-5 in New Zealand and were shut out three times. Beating France, which is fifth in the world, shows the U.S. has the potential to do more than just give a laudatory effort.
"I'm really pleased because the guys are working so hard, and I know we need just one breakout win when the guys play collectively together," Caravelli said. "When they do play together and have patience, we can really score against anybody."
The U.S. women play Canada in the championship at 12:16 p.m. today. The Americans defeated the Netherlands 17-5 in the semifinals, and Canada beat France, 21-12.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.